Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
The Good Apprentice incorporates many of the themes and techniques that are found in other Iris Murdoch novels. There is, first of all, the debate and dramatization of the ethical problem of “the good”; there is the theme of the role and place of the artist in the late twentieth century; there is the doubling and pairing of characters and the switching about of lovers and relationships; there is, finally, the qualified happy ending of this brilliant and typical Murdoch novel.
The novel begins with a moral and ethical problem: Edward Baltram gives a friend a hallucinogenic drug in a sandwich, leaves him sleeping while he visits a girl for a few minutes, and returns to find that his friend has jumped to his death through a window. Edward is crushed; everything he has lived for is now meaningless. A family friend, Thomas McCaskerville, who is a psychiatrist, is treating Edward, but there is no indication of improvement or change. Searching for some relief, Edward accepts a fortuitous invitation to visit his father, Jesse, at his house in the country.
Edward’s half brother, Stuart Cuno, is not looking to relieve guilt but has, instead, apprenticed himself to the good. He has given up sex, renounced his brilliant academic career in mathematics, and is thinking of doing some sort of slum work. His problem is the opposite of Edward’s; neither one, however, seems to be able to have any success in dealing with these very different...
(The entire section is 1067 words.)
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